The FBI has warned of possible armed protests being planned for Washington, D.C., and at all 50 U.S. state capitals in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, a federal law enforcement source said on Monday.
Faced with threats of more violence from outgoing President Donald Trump's supporters, the National Guard was authorized to send up to 15,000 troops to Washington, and tourists were barred from visiting the Washington Monument until Jan. 24.
Biden's inaugural committee said on Monday the theme of the Jan. 20 ceremony will be "America United," even as the country grapples with the fallout of last Wednesday's storming of the Capitol by Trump loyalists.
The law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the FBI warnings were from Jan. 16 and at least through Jan. 20 for state capitals and for the three days leading up to Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C.
The chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Daniel Hokanson, told reporters he expected about 10,000 troops to be in Washington by Saturday and they would focus on supporting security, logistics, and communications.
He said the number could rise to 15,000 if requested by local authorities.
At least one lawmaker asked the Pentagon to do more.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who said he was sending a letter to the acting secretary of defense on Monday, said it was unclear if the National Guard would be sufficient to protect the nation's capital and active duty troops may be needed also.
“I’m not afraid of taking the oath outside," Biden told reporters in Newark, Del, referring to the traditional setting for the swearing-in ceremony on the Capitol building grounds. But he said it was critically important that people "who engaged in sedition and threatened people’s lives, defaced public property, caused great damage" be held accountable.
Washington Monument closed to tours
The Park Service said it would suspend tours of the Washington Monument, an obelisk honoring the country's first president, due to safety concerns from threats to disrupt the inauguration.
In a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf made public on Sunday, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser called for a fresh approach to security after what she called last week's "unprecedented terrorist attack."
Bowser asked Wolf to cancel public gathering permits through Jan. 24.
The assault on the Capitol, meant to challenge the certification of Biden's victory in a November election, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five people dead. Dozens of people have been charged in the violence and hundreds more cases are expected.
Despite evidence of a fair election, Trump has challenged the validity of Biden's substantial victory. Democrats in Congress began a push on Monday to force Trump from office, introducing an article of impeachment that accuses him of inciting insurrection.
The presidential inaugural committee said in a statement on Monday its theme "reflects the beginning of a new national journey that restores the soul of America," echoing Biden's campaign pledge to heal the country's divisions.
The committee has told Americans not to travel to the inauguration, and said Washington's National Mall will be covered with 191,500 flags of different sizes, to represent the missing crowds.
A U.S. presidential inauguration traditionally draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the U.S. capital, but the ceremonies have been scaled back dramatically because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump said last week he would not attend the ceremony, a decision the president-elect supported.
Reporting by Mark Hosenball, Idrees Ali, Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Ted Hesson and Simon Lewis in Washington, Trevor Hunnicutt in Delaware, Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru
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